Songwriting Tip: Use Another Song’s Structure

Occasionally I begin writing a song by copying the structure of another song.

Every song has a lyrical structure.? By structure I mean the number of syllables in each line, the lines that rhyme, etc.

Observe the structure of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”:

Mary had a little lamb (7 syllables)
Whose fleece was white as snow (6 syllables)
Everywhere that Mary went (7 syllables)
The lamb was sure to go (6 syllables)

Syllables in lines 1 and 3 match; 2 and 4 match.? Lines 3 & 4 repeat the structure of lines 1 & 2.? Lines 2 and 4 rhyme.

When I wrote “Glorious” on the Sovereign Grace album, “Come Weary Saints,” I used the structure of the hymn “How Great Thou Art.”? Compare the structure of the two verses below and you will see that you could sing the melody of “How Great Thou Art” to “Glorious.”

Verse 1 – “How Great Thou Art”:

O Lord my God,
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all
The works Thy Hand hath made,
I see the stars,
I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy pow’r throughout
The universe displayed

Verse 1 – “Glorious”:

How great You are
Your greatness none can fathom
Upholding all
By Your almighty Word
The universe
Fulfills Your every purpose
And all You?ve made
Will bring You praise, O God

Obviously, I changed the melody, speed, and the feel to make my song completely different.? If I hadn’t told you, you’d probably never suspect what I did.? (This will be our little secret, ok?).? Like Albert Einstein said: ?The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.?

Try this and see if it works for you.

photo by eskedal

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Mark Altrogge

I’m a pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, PA. I’m married to Kristi, have 5 kids, and a growing number of grandkids. I enjoy songwriting, oil painting and coffee, not necessarily in that order.

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